According to an Australian Senate inquiry, single-use plastics such as coffee cups with plastic linings, could be banned by 2023.
The Senate Environment and Communications References Committee, Never waste a crisis: the waste and recycling industry in Australia, was released this week, detailing 18 recommendations and a full report on ways to reduce landfill and improve the quality of recycling.
The inquiry into Australian’s recycling crisis has also recommended the ban on takeaway containers and chip packets.
The recommendations comes after Woolworths supermarkets banned single-use plastic bags from 20 June and Coles will follow from 1 July. This week, Woolworths also announced it was considering allowing shoppers to bring their own containers in-store to purchase deli items and meats.
Prior to any bans, Australians used approximately four billion single use plastic bags annually. An increasing number of countries are also making efforts to reduce plastic consumption. Costa Rica will ban single-use plastics by 2012, and India by 2022.
“Australia’s dependency on single-use plastics has sky-rocketed over the last two decades and, as a result, we see that many of Australia’s valuable natural assets, for example the Great Barrier Reef, are heavily polluted by plastic debris,” says Dr Paul Harvey of the Department of Environmental Sciences at Macquarie University.
Paul says the overburden of recycling products in Australia following the cessation of offshore recycling processing demonstrates that we are in urgent need of a shift in the way we handle our waste in Australia.
“As with all pollution, prevention of pollution always starts at the source. By limiting the input of single-use plastic into the supply chain, we will see a reduction of single-use plastics in the waste stream,” he says. “If we are to break Australia’s addiction to single-use plastics, we must provide environmentally-friendly and sustainable alternatives to avoid creating yet another problem in the future.”
Dr Robert Crocker, a Senior Lecturer at the University of South Australia says Australia needs to invest in developing its industrial experience in high-tech recycling systems currently undertaken in Europe and China so we can responsibly manage our own wastes and reuse our resources more profitably.
“This will mean funding research and education in ‘resource management’ and not just pretending it is all about just ‘recycling’ a few cans,” Robert says.
“We need to stop blaming consumers and do more to encourage them – through legislation and well-designed programs – to separate wastes so that we can more fully capture the products we can actually recycle. This may require extending container deposit schemes and funding public smart bins with some national incentivisation scheme, so that consumers are rewarded for returning bottles and cans.
“The market develops too quickly now to continue with the present system of ‘wait until there is a disaster’. The takeaway coffee cup ‘set’, for example, was invented in 1987 and there are now over 500 billion produced every year.”
Consumers are encouraged to participate in “Plastic Free July”, an global movement that aims to dramatically reduce plastic use worldwide.